Category Archives: Starch

Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole

Put down that can opener! There is no condensed soup in this recipe, but it’s still easy to make.

This is one of those recipes put together with things from the pantry—rice, sour cream, cheese, carrots, and, of course, chicken. Your ingredients might vary, but that’s how new favorites are born. I hadn’t even thought about blogging this recipe in advance, so there is just this one photo of the dish as it came out of the oven:


Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 350°; butter a 1 1/2-2 quart shallow baking dish

1 cup brown jasmine rice or whatever rice you have on hand

2 1/2 cups chicken stock or bouillon, such as Better Than Bouillon® chicken base

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 large onion, diced

1 large carrot, diced—or whatever vegetable you have on hand, such as fresh or frozen broccoli or peas or a combination of vegetables

5 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1 cup sour cream—or heavy cream or half and half

2 cups shredded cheese, such as Sargento® 4 Cheese Mexican

Optional: 1 cup breadcrumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons melted butter (I keep fresh breadcrumbs in the freezer made from leftover rolls)

IMG_2786I try to keep a number of pantry items on hand, because I just don’t have the temperament to plan out a week’s worth of recipes every week, and it’s nice to be able to put together a dish without having to run to the grocery for just a few items and then spend more than you want on impulse buys.

I keep 3-4 types of rice on hand (Arborio, brown, white, wild blend) and a number of cheeses. When I made this yesterday, I had part of a Parmesan wedge, 2 packages of the Mexican shredded cheese, queso fresco, and about a cup of shredded pepper jack. I pick up a container of sour cream every week, because it comes in handy in so many ways, especially when I just want to throw something in a tortilla. So you can see how this recipe came together.

  1. Cook the rice in 2 cups of the chicken stock. It takes about 45 minutes to cook the rice, during which time you can prepare the rest of the ingredients. Use the remaining 1/2 cup of stock to use if you think the final dish needs more moisture. The important step here is cooking the rice first. You can make a casserole in which the rice cooks in the oven, but it has to be tightly covered, and then the other ingredients can overcook. The worse scenario is when the rice doesn’t cook and you wait and wait or eat crunchy rice. Just cook the rice first.
  2. In a large saute pan, saute the onion and carrot in 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent.
  3. Remove the vegetables and add the chicken cubes to the same pan, stirring to quickly brown in 2-3 tablespoons oil over medium high heat.
  4. Turn off the heat and return the vegetables to the pan, then stir in the rice, sour cream, and shredded cheese.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with the breadcrumb mixture or reserved cheese. Bake for 25 minutes, until top is browned and the casserole is bubbling around the edges.

My favorite things about casseroles:

  • cleaning up the kitchen while it’s in the oven
  • the ease of one-dish meals
  • crunchy toppings

Hamburger Stew

I’m pretty sure you never saw this recipe before. My mother made “Hamburger Stew” all the time and said that her grandmother, who lived with them, made it, although she also said that her grandmother wouldn’t allow her to be in the kitchen to learn from her. Regardless, she did learn this recipe. It strikes me as the kind of recipe that would come out of the Depression they lived through. It’s a very basic meat and potatoes dish, and although I could think of ways to update it, I’d just rather have it always taste the way it always tasted.

What makes this dish different from any similarly-named dish you’ll find on the web, is that the hamburger is in the form of hamburger patties, and they sit at the bottom of the stew vegetables that are layered according to which ones need the most cooking. Kind of an odd arrangement, but it does portion out the meat, as well as give the sense of more substantial pieces of meat than just browned ground beef.

The ingredients couldn’t be simpler—ground beef, onions, carrots, potatoes. Maybe bacon. Apparently my great grandmother often cooked bacon in the pan first, as she apparently also did with tomato sauce, but I don’t think my mother did that, or if she did, it was seldom. It was just a step she told me about. I usually don’t use the bacon, either, but I think I will cook two pieces today before browning the burgers.

Hamburger Stew

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Optional: 2-3 slices bacon, browned

1 lb ground beef, shaped into four patties, seasoned with salt & pepper

1 onion, sliced

4 large carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

2-3 medium potatoes, sliced

salt & pepper to taste—season each layer of the dish

2 cups water

4 tablespoons flour for thickening, mixed with a small amount of water

  1. If using bacon, brown the bacon in a dutch oven and remove. I guess you could crumble the bacon into the finished dish, but I’m just using the bacon fat in this step.
  2. Brown the hamburger patties in the bacon fat over medium-high heat. This is the only flavoring for the gravy, so browning is important.
  3. Sprinkle the sliced onions over the burgers.
  4. Add all the carrots in a layer over the onions. Season. The carrots take longer to cook than the potatoes, so they need to be closer to the bottom of the paan.
  5. Add the sliced potatoes in an even layer over the carrots. Season.
  6. JUST ADD WATER. Hard to believe, but that’s all that is ever added to this dish, 2 cups water. An obvious addition would be beef stock or bouillon, but it always tasted fine to me.
  7. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover and simmer for about a half hour, checking sooner to see if the carrots are done.
  8. Remove the vegetables to a bowl with a large slotted spoon and the burgers to a plate or on top of the vegetables. Thicken the liquid in the pot with a flour/water mixture and pour over the vegetables.

My mother had an aluminum shaker in which she always mixed flour and water. I don’t ever remember her using cornstarch. That shaker always worked well, leaving no lumps. This Ovaltine shaker on Etsy looks very much like the one we had, but ours had no brand name on it:


And then you can’t taste anything

Since my last post, I haven’t been in the kitchen, but I’m expecting to get back in soon, whenever this sinus infection clears up and I can begin to taste again. Anything I have been eating has had to have texture to entertain me or soothe my sore throat. Bananas, yogurt, and cups of Better Then Bouillon® Chicken Base are the things that are the most soothing. I can’t say enough how tasty that chicken base is (when I can taste), and it’s not salty, like bouillon cubes—actually, I just had this conversation with the woman behind me at the grocery a few minutes ago who saw the jar and had to comment on how great it is. Okay, that commercial’s over.

The other interesting texture is crunch. I’ve been satisfying that with Simply Smart® chicken tenders and the old reliable Ore-Ida Tater Tots®.

Can’t smell, can’t taste, but texture helps me imagine a little. I’m pretty sure the next post will be a recipe for my mother’s “Hamburger Stew,” but not until I know I can taste it.

Cooking in Someone Else’s Kitchen

I’m off for a few days to visit my granddaughter and will be cooking in that familiar yet strange kitchen that is not my own, so I’m taking a few things to make it more mine and will just adapt to the rest.

I made some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, adapted from the Quaker©Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies” that everyone knows from their oatmeal boxes (I used an old-fashioned oat, not the quick oats). I just traded the cinnamon and raisins for some chocolate chips, mostly to keep me from eating them. Using a 2 teaspoon scoop, I got about six dozen cookies, so I could leave three dozen for my husband. Those are about half gone already!

I’m going to make some white bean chicken stew while there using two rotisserie chickens. I’m going to pick those up now and pull off the meat to store in the freezer so when I leave in the morning, they will stay cold in a cooler during the 8-hour drive. The great northern beans I’ll cook there, and take some pre-packaged chicken stock and baby spinach and carrots. I better take some garlic, just in case.

I don’t know what else I might make, but I’ll get some good cheeses—Parmesan and Gruyere and Fontina and cheddar. Might as well do a macaroni and cheese, but we’ll see.

It’s always nice to make a kitchen gift for your hostess, so I whipped up an apron this weekend. Since the hostess is just shy of three years old, it’s in an appropriately tiny size.